By Sarah Hughes
If you’ve been around Murphy recently, you’ve probably heard rumblings about the PSC contract battle. As a labor school, Murphy Institute faculty, students and staff study and put into practice the fight for labor rights. Now, as members of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY and AFSCME District Council 37, Murphy community members are in a fight for fair labor conditions all our own. To give a bit of context, we’ve assembled an explainer. Read on to learn how we got here — and where things might be headed.
What’s going on with CUNY?
Since 2010 CUNY workers, faculty and staff, have been without a contract. Our union, the Professional Staff Congress, has been working the regular routes to a contract: members have written countless petitions and letters, endorsed a pro-labor mayor, endorsed the governor, lobbied for a new, labor-friendly chancellor, held mass meetings and rallies, got arrested and lobbied tirelessly in Albany.
In the meantime, Gov. Cuomo and the legislature has underfunded CUNY to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and is threatening something much more drastic this spring.
- The Governor has removed nearly half a billion dollars from the the CUNY budget, claiming that New York City needs to cover it. Chancellor Milliken has suggested that colleges may have to close if these cuts go through.
- Students have faced a 31% tuition increase since 2011 and are looking at 5 more years of increases that were already passed by the Board of Trustees.
- NY Senate Republicans are supporting Cuomo’s budget cut, citing incidents of “anti-Semitism” for withdrawing support from CUNY.
- Now Cuomo wants to hire a management consultant to find inefficiencies in CUNY.
What happens if PSC-CUNY calls a job action?
If a substantial proportion of the PSC-CUNY membership signs on to the strike authorization pledge, the Executive Board and officers may decide to hold a strike vote. If enough folks vote yes on a strike vote, that gives the leadership the ability to call a job action going forward.
What is a job action?
A job action is any action taken with other workers that would disrupt the regular business of CUNY. This would include a one-day strike, an indefinite strike, a sick-out, a slowdown, walk-out, etc. The leadership would give notice so people could prepare.
What could PSC-CUNY members win!?
A contract! Over 5 years after expiration, CUNY workers deserve raises to keep up with inflation. Other important demands are for promotional steps for HEOs, adjunct job security, and fair course loads for teaching faculty.
As a union, the PSC could also regain collective power and dignity. The 100,000 students, 25,000 PSC members, many DC 37 members, and countless alumni of CUNY deserve a public education system that is funded and respected. New York politicians need to know CUNY will fight to protect public education, students and the city.
What could PSC-CUNY members lose?
Because of the 1967 New York Taylor Law, job actions for New York public sector workers are illegal. For each day a worker participates, they could face up to 2 days pay as a fine. To get a rough idea of the penalty, divide a salary by 260 days, then double it. The PSC could also face large fines, and be ordered back to work. The Transport Workers Union Local 100 struck in 2005 and lost the right to payroll dues deduction, incurred fines for workers, and the union president was jailed for contempt of court. If you have concerns about other penalties, talk to an organizer, activist or leader on your campus! The stronger the action is, the more successful we will be.